I am a self taught artist living in Bradford, Vermont. I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. Art is as fundamental a part of my life as eating and sleeping.
I grew up in Wolfeboro, NH. There I warped my mind with a steady diet of Doctor Who reruns, Conan books and Iron Maiden albums. And it was at a young age that I first started filling sketchbooks with strange drawings.
Favorite subjects include fantasy, horror, Pop Surrealism and Portraiture. However, I don't like to limit myself by only painting certain subjects. I really just paint what I feel like painting.
I am currently working on building up a portfolio of fine art pieces to present to galleries in hopes of finding new markets for my work. You can see the progress I'm making on this site, on my Home Page.
Besides painting and drawing, I am also interested in woodworking. I've been making cabinets and furniture and other carpentry for several decades now. Currently, I work at the world famous furniture company Pompanoosuc Mills, in Thetford, Vermont. I also have a small home woodshop right next to my studio where I make my own frames and painting panels.
I share my life with my spouse Meredith and our cat overlord Honda, a rescue cat from the Lucy Mackenzie Humane Society.
Drawing and sketching have always been things I've enjoyed doing, all they way back to my young childhood. I've always found solace and safety in the worlds I create myself with paper and pencil. I'm at my happiest when I am sitting with my sketchbook in my lap, with a pencil in one had and a piping hot cup of coffee in the other. A little jazz music in the background and a purring cat laying next to me, and we're talking heaven.
In my late teens, I decided I wanted to be a painter. With the naivety of youth, I thought it would be fairly easy to translate my sketching skills to paint. It was just a matter of learning a new medium, right? Sort of like a child who has mastered the tambourine, and decides tomorrow he will learn the grand piano. After several painful decades of truly awful paintings (and a short list of good ones,) I have fond that I am still better at sketching than painting. However, I have found that, to my surprise, I have learned to enjoy painting, even if it didn't bring me the accolades I had hoped for. Painting and sketching are kissing cousins, and it is hard to indulge both passions without falling in love with both. My paintings spring from my sketches, and my sketches are inspired by my paintings. A strange manage a trois that I unwittingly initiated many moons ago, and am powerless to control.
I feel that now that I am a bit longer in the tooth than that pretentious kid who decided he could teach himself to paint, I am bringing a new level of care and insight to my work. I cringe much less at my new work than I use to, anyway. In fact, I'm quite hopeful that my work has turned a bit of a corner. So here I am, producing a new portfolio that I am hoping will finally bring me a bit of that long hoped for recognition. I'm quite happy with my newer paintings, and I think I'm really making work of substance now. But then, I've told myself that before, and have been disappointed. I suppose I am too close to my own work to be a good judge. And I suppose if this new work doesn't open any doors, posterity will have to decide if I am a 'real' artist, or just an idiot with a paint set. Either way, I still enjoy sketching and painting more than anything else. More than everything else, to be really honest, and I will keep right on making more bad art for as long as I can. So there.
What i've Achieved
- My work was recently on display at the Newport Library Art Center's Regional Juried Exhibit, in Newport, NH. I was also recently featured at the Pompanoosuc Mills East Thetford, VT Showroom.
- I've appeared in numerous juried art exhibits over the years, including shows at the AVA Gallery (Lebanon, NH,) the Springfield Historical Society (Springfield, VT,) and The Newport Library Arts Center (Newport, NH.)
- My cousin Amanda Toppin and I have published a children's book through lulu.com; Seedy Treefeather
- I am frequently commissioned to paint portraits of people and pets.
- I helped illustrate the graphic novel by Dustin Warburton, Strange Things. Unfortunately this is out of print.
- I illustrated the children's book The Legend of Casey Rock, by Elizabeth Grey, also out of print.
- I've done a number of drawings for the online review site North Country Review.
- I did the logo for the International Cryogenics Conference, Cryocooler 9.
- Other commissions include tattoo designs, murals, posters and custom auto art.
- I've appeared in several magazines, including the science fiction magazine, Space & Time, and the trade newsletter Ruger Insight.
- For Ten years I ran the t-shirt airbrush studio Night Air Studios, traveling to fairs and festivals in New Hampshire and Vermont, freehand airbrushing t-shirts on the spot for people. It was quite fun at first, but after a while I felt more like a t-shirt vender than an artist, and so I packed it in.
I always start with lots of sketching, which I do in a variety of materials, though a plain old #2 pencil and a Strathmore sketchbook are my standard. I literally do hundreds of sketches for each finished painting. I mostly sketch straight from my imagination, with no reference photos are anything like that. Though I do sometimes use photos to study a subject I'm not familiar with. And I sometimes use a wooden artist's mannequin to study foreshortening or how shadows fall on a person.
Once I have a drawing, or drawings that I'm happy with, the next step is to prep my surface. Although I sometimes work on canvas, I usually paint on hardboard panels that I prep myself. I start with 1/4" baltic birch plywood, sand it smooth, seal it on both sides with acrylic medium, then gesso the front and sides, two coats, sanding after each. Frames I make myself from real hardwood oak. Tools I find essential for frame making include a miter saw, a biscuit joiner and a good router. And lots of clamps. My frames are varnished with Minwax brand polyurethane.
Next, I use an opaque projector to transfer my drawings to the painting panel. I use the Prism projector from Artograph. I also use an Accurasee brand Proportional Divider to check my traced drawing with the original. This nifty tool allows me to check all the proportions, and make sure nothing got distorted in the enlargement.
Now, I can finally start painting. I usually use a three stage painting proccess. I start off blocking in solid color, with an emphasis on value. I break everything down into three basic values. The second step is to create the soft blending between lights and darks that give the painting that three dimensional quality. A lot of people think blending gradients with acrylics is really hard, or requires elaborate layering. Actually, blending is just as easy with acrylics as with oils. You just have to work more quickly and on smaller areas at a time, to accommodate the faster drying time.The final stage is, of course, detailing. It's pretty staight forward. I don't have many painting 'secrets' per say. The most important thing, in my work anyway, is to start off with a rock solid drawing to build on. For paints, I really like both Liquitex and Holbein acrylics. For brushes, my favorites are Princeton Catalyst long handle brushes. I don't depend on the airbrush like I use to, but I still keep my Badger 350 hooked up to an ancient Badger Tornado compressor, as it does come in handy once in awhile.
For varnishing, I apply two coats of Liquitex Gloss Medium, using a Paasche 62 spray gun, at very low pressure. This produces a very durable satin finish that doesn't distract from the artwork. I touch this up as needed with Liquitex Soluvar aerosol varnish.
Photography is done with my Pentax K 50, set to take RAW files on manual control. I also use Salens brand LED floodlights, a Manfrotto tripod and a Neewer Light Tent. For a light meter, I use the Luxi for All smartphone attachment with the Luxi app. I use a Datacolor Spydercheckr 24 to calibrate white balance and color. For software, I use Adobe Lightroom Classic.
That is pretty much it for my painting setup and workflow. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com .
You can see more of my work on my Flickr page here: flickr.com/photos/jaytref/
I also have a Deviant Art page: http://jaytref.deviantart.com